The flea, that pesky, jumping scourge, is the most common external parasite in cats; they cause cats to scratch madly and for those unfortunate animals who are allergic to them, scabby, weeping skin sores (Dermatitis) may result. Tapeworm infection and bartonellosis can also be possible flea related problems.
So how does one control and eradicate these troublesome pests? Firstly, it helps to find proof that fleas are in fact living in the cat's fur. This is easily done by grooming the animal with a flea comb and looking for evidence of flea "dirt", flecks of chocolate brown grit like specks of pepper, which, horribly enough, are defecated blood from your cat left behind by the fleas (squeeze it between damp tissues to reveal a reddish brown residue).
As fleas are very fast moving, they can be quite hard to spot; to add to the difficulty of treating, be aware that your cat may be attacked by the cat flea, dog flea or even human flea, all of which lay their eggs in the cat's fur. Your floor-coverings in the house will also likely be a breeding ground, sometimes infested with fleas and their eggs. Keep in mind that a flea can live for up to two years, so vigilance in controlling them is very important.
An effective flea eradication plan should achieve the following goals:
(1) The elimination of immature flea stages in the environment.
(2) The wiping out of adult fleas on the cat itself.
(3) A prevention of any future re-infestation of the parasite.
Extensive cleaning and vacuuming, washing pet bedding etc should be conducted on a regular basis in order to eliminate flea eggs and larvae; fleas breed best in humid conditions so drying out of the home environs and pruning outside are advisable strategies. Some wildlife, such as squirrels, raccoons, and possums will also carry fleas so don't allow them into your house in order to prevent possible infestation of your pets.
Pet stores sell anti-flea products, including powders, shampoos and sprays that work well, also available at veterinary practices and supermarkets. For the home environment, long-active sprays are the best products to use. Treating your cat with insecticide can help, applied to a small area of the neck, effective for whole body protection for a month. Some flea products worth trying include Fipronil (good for kittens), Imidacloprid and Lufenuron (which stops flea eggs from developing). A flea collar for your cat is another good idea, some lasting up to 12 months. Be aware that flea products designed for dogs are not recommended to be used on cats as they can produce toxic effects.
Cleanliness is key in the control and prevention of fleas in cats; be thorough in eradicating them and your cat shall remain happy and content, and free from the dreaded itch!
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